Monday, February 13, 2012

Are You Prepared to Research Without the SSDI?

We know that we may lose access to the Social Security Death Index in the coming months, and the end of it may come suddenly.  Or not.  It's up to Congress and the President, and perhaps will be influenced by petitions, letters and phone calls from constituents.

I think it's worthwhile to plan ahead for that eventuality.  If it happens, I will have the information I need due to work I perform now.  If it doesn't happen, I can continue using the SSDI for my research needs, but don't have to do the work again.

I'm going to be pro-active here and now - and "mine" the SSDI.  Here are my "SSDI mining" plans to be performed this week:

1)  Determine the persons for whom I want to order Social Security applications (SS-5) for.  Determine the SSNs, write the letters, and the checks, and order them.  Although Rootsweb.com took the SSDI down, Ancestry.com still permits subscribers to print off the letters.  Hint:  On the record summary, click on the "Request copy of original information" in the "Page Tools" section.

While I don't have immigrant ancestors after 1855, many researchers do, and the SS-5 forms usually provide birth dates, birth places and parents names for those immigrant family members.  Even if your family member didn't have a Social Security card, their siblings may have had one that provides the critical information.

2)  Collect as much information from the SSDI as I can for my families and surnames of interest, and enter it into my genealogy management program with an appropriate source.  Since I'm interested in gathering as much information in the records in as little space as possible, I went looking for the SSDI records online, did some searches and reviewed how the results are presented.  Here are my findings:

*  Ancestry.com has the SSDI behind their subscription wall now.  The information provided in the Search Results list are:  Name; Birth Date; Death Date; Last Residence (City, County, State).  By clicking on the "View Record" link, the user can also see the SSN and the State (Year) SSN Issued.

Here is a screen for the list of Search Results for the "Seaver" surname from Ancestry:


There are currently 1,395 entries for "Seaver" on Ancestry.com, and they are in birth year order. Ancestry provides up to 50 results on one web page.

*  GenealogyBank has the SSDI available for free (but you have to register a name and email address).  The information provided in the Search Results list are Name, Birth Year, Death Year, and State Issued.  The record for an individual provides Name, State of Issue, Birth Date, Death Date,  Estimated Age at Death, and Last Known Residence.

Here is the screen for the list of Search Results for the "Seaver" surname from GenealogyBank:


There are currently 1,393 entries for "Seaver" on GenealogyBank, and they are in death year order. GenealogyBank provides up to 10 results on one web page.

*  WorldVitalRecords has the SSDI available behind their subscription wall  (you can register, with a credit card for a three-day free trial).  The information provided in the Search Results list are Given Name, Last Name, Birth Date, Death Date, City, and State.  The record for an individual provides Name, Birth Date, Death Date,  State of Issue and Last Known Residence.

Here is the screen for the list of Search Results for the "Seaver" surname from WorldVitalRecords:


There are currently 1,375 entries for "Seaver" on WorldVitalRecords, and they are in first name alphabetical  order. WorldVitalRecords provides up to 25 results on one web page.

*  American Ancestors has the SSDI available for free  (no registration required).  The information provided in the Search Results list are Name, Birth Date, Death Date, SSN, State Issued, Residence Location (City,  State, Zip), Residence County, Payment Location (city, state, zip), and Payment County.  The record for an individual provides no additional information.

Here is the screen for the list of Search Results for the "Seaver" surname from American Ancestors:



There are currently 1,361 entries for "Seaver" on American Ancestors, and the user can choose the order from:  Relevance (I'm unsure what this means...); First Name; Last Name; Year - Oldest to Most Recent; Year - Most Recent to Oldest; Location - State.  American Ancestors provides up to 50 results on one web page.

*  FamilySearch has the SSDI available for free  (no registration required).  The information provided in the Search Results list are Name, Birth Date, Death Date, and State.  The record for an individual (and dropdown menu) has First Name, Last Name, Birth Date, SSN, State Issued, Last Residence (County,  State, Zip), (city, state, zip), Death Date, and Estimated Age at Death.

Here is the screen for the list of Search Results for the "Seaver" surname from



There are currently 1,392 entries for "Seaver" on FamilySearch, which seems to be in SSN order. Familysearch provides up to 20 results on one web page.

It seems to me that American Ancestors has all of the useful information in their Search Results list, and none of the others do.  Apparently, Ancestry.com has the latest database, and American Ancestors list is the most out-of-date.

3)   I saved the web pages (by going to File > Save Page As on my browser menu) for Seaver from the American Ancestors site (I chose Year - Oldest to Most Recent for the list).  There were 28 web pages saved to my Surname files.  I did the same thing for Seavers/Sever/Severs/Seavor, Carringer/Caringer, Auble/Aubel/Aubell, Vaux, McKnew, Grieser/Greiser

What are you going to do IF access to the Social Security Death Index is restricted or denied?  I advise you to PLAN AHEAD for the eventuality.  If it doesn't happen, all the better.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2012/02/are-you-prepared-to-research-without.html

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Updated 11 a.m. to add FamilySearch.  Thank you, Banai!  I meant to and had a brain cramp.

7 comments:

Banai Lynn Feldstein said...

FamilySearch.org has it without subscription also.

Denise Spurlock said...

Good post, Randy! In the past, when I've found an entry in the SSDI, I just made note of the birth and death dates and SSN. I'm going to go back and actually get the information on last known residence and other info. Never know - I might need that some day! I need to create a plan for doing this SOON!

Christine M. said...

I think Mocavo has it for free...However, I believe it has to come up as a result of a specific search (I could be wrong).

Judy G. Russell said...

FYI, The Social Security Administration is now blacking out parents' names on SS-5s for persons born less than 120 years ago. I have two on order now, expect them to be redacted and at this point plan to file an FOIA appeal to the agency on those. But before you spend tons of money, be aware of that issue.

Niecey - Chosen Storyteller said...

You've inspired me to order the SS-5 for my great-grandfather Theo, and to check and see which other family members I may need an SS-5 for. Thank you for the inspiration!

Liesa Healy-Miller said...

Randy, great idea to plan ahead and get as much info as possible for one's own tree.

Unfortunately, however, this cannot help professional genealogists who depend on the SSDI to help their clients find a date of death. Let's just hope shutting down this database never comes to pass!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

I really hate to hear they are going to black out parents' names on SS-5s for persons born less than 120 years ago. I am trying to order a death certificate for someone in Texas who JUST falls past the 25 years closed category. Texas requires the father's first and last name! I think that is ridiculous ~ the son requesting the death certificate has no way of knowing that information. We thought we had it made when we found out who his birth mother was! GRRRR!!!